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Madison, Mississippi Teen Arrested for Expired License

Last week the Northside Sun reported that a 17 year old was arrested and taken to the Raymond jail and then to the Henley-Young  Juvenile Justice Center for having an expired license. On the face of it, the arrest seems to be a strong punishment for a seemingly minor offense.  Although in Mississippi you can be arrested for driving with an expired license, normally a driver would just get a traffic ticket.  So what happened?

Teenagers Followed the Police Officer

According to the article in the Northside Sun (“Arrested! Northside Teen Locked Up for Expired Driver’s License” by Anthony Warren), these are the facts:  Four teenagers were riding in a car and one boy saw his brother’s car being towed. The car had been parked on a city road with a No Trespassing sign. The boys went and got the brother and returned to the car. The brother asked the officer in charge if she would not tow his car. She said no and told them to move on. The boys then drove to another street and waited for the car to be towed. They followed the towed car and the police officer. Before they reached the impound lot, the officer pulled the boys over. After noticing that the driver’s license had expired, she arrested and cuffed the driver and took him to the Hinds County Correctional Facility. Once it was discovered that the 17 year old driver was a minor, he was sent to the juvenile detention facility where he spent the night.  The charges have since been dropped, but the boy’s parents filed a complaint against the arresting officer arguing that the arrest was improper because there was no reason to pull the boys over.

Legal Reasons the Police Can Pull Someone Over

Legally, a police officer can pull drivers over if they have a reasonable suspicion that a violation has occurred – for example, the driver was acting suspiciously or driving erratically.  But here is what probably happened. It is likely that the boys, being teenagers, had a somewhat cocky attitude and irritated the officer.  They antagonized the police officer by following her, and, depending on who you believe, possibly making faces at her, and she got mad.

What can we glean from this cautionary tale? First, police officers are generally trying to do their job, ensuring safety and keeping order, and should be treated with respect.  More importantly, police officers have the ability to pull you over and arrest you, so it is in your best interest to be polite to them. Definitely do not antagonize law enforcement officers!  Traffic violations are generally minor, but can be inconvenient and expensive.  So you really want to avoid giving the police any reason to pull you over. It is always a good idea to make sure that your registration, insurance, inspection sticker and license are all up to date. Drivers’ licenses can be tricky since you do not receive a notice in the mail that your license needs to be renewed. Also, you should make sure that your car is in perfect working order, and especially check to see if your lights are all functioning.

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